Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by impairment of communication, social interaction and certain repetitive behaviours. It becomes manifest early in childhood between the twelfth and the eighteenth month of birth, and many of these children grow into adults with the disorder.
Diagnostic statistics show that autism occurs 4 times more frequently in males than females, however females seem to be more severely affected. The autism spectrum covers a broad range of other diseases with their distinct symptoms, for example, sensory processing disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger’s and some others. For this reason, autism cannot have a specific etiology and its sufferers may present unique symptoms of this same disorder.
Over the years, there has been a growing consciousness towards autism and several research and inquiries have been made into the cause and presentations of this disorder, and perhaps into finding a scientific cure for it, which has repeatedly proved futile, although certain genetic and environmental risk factors have been suspected.
Just as the cure has eluded scientists for years, so also has there been a poised uncertainty as to the cause of this neurological disorder. But it is important to mention at this point that the growing awareness and indeed the subsequent research have increasingly shapened our understanding of this disorder, it’s manifestations and management, in no small degree. Also, the replacement of the DSM-IV with the DSM-5 booklet for clinical diagnosis has played a major role in transforming how, even, experts perceived this disorder. This article
summarizes a few of these advances and turning points.
Until recently, or perhaps yet, there had been a controversy amongst experts over the frequency of autism by gender. While some experts believed that males suffered from autism more than the females, others think it is not so, and perhaps can’t be easily determined.
The former made their conclusions from recorded cases of autism diagnosis in subjects, stating that the recorded number of male autistic patients outweighed that of the females, by approximately four-fold. The latter group
are of the opinion that this might be untrue after all. Stating that, for one thing, females are naturally better at concealing their emotions than the males, and for another, females could conduct themselves more than males in public.
So, when such vital signs are camouflaged, it becomes quite impossible to make precise diagnosis. They believed that females were more liable to emotional trauma due to relationship issues or physical abuse, in which case autism symptoms might be mistaken for other emotional and mental problems. However, statistics of autism diagnosis show autism to be prevalent in males than females.
Another significant change is the approach to autism diagnosis. Experts have always suggested that early detection of the behavioural symptoms in children within 12 to 18 months of birth might improve chances on early intervention.
In this regard, a group of experts later suggested that a good number of these behavioural characteristics were exhibited by almost all infants and could be specious. This group described these features as prodromal symptoms because they were concerned with certain domains of development that are not definitely viewed as part of the manifestations of autism spectrum disorder, where they involve related behaviours that were typical of social communication symptoms.
But rather, a number of groups had given evidence suggesting that no detectable differences exist in brain development and function in the first year of life that may identify children with specific vulnerability to neurobehavioural problems, perhaps even before the onset of chief symptoms, hence opening a crucial window for intervention that might even prevent some of the disabilities associated with autism.
Another group opined that, given the diversity among children with autism, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s variability in onset and course of development. Also, a research report has linked a higher risk of developing the disorder to younger siblings of affected people.
With the introduction of Diagnostic Statistical Manual-5 (DSM-5) in 2013 came an entire perspective
into how experts view autism spectrum disorder. It used to be considered one of the groups of pervasive developmental disorders, until recently that is became known as a neurodevelopmental condition with symptoms appearing early in life; thanks to the DSM-5.
One major change in the DSM-5 criteria for autism was giving it another name, autism spectrum disorder, as opposed to the previous, pervasive developmental disorder. This change was done because the manifestations
aren’t pervasive but rather peculiar to social communication and behavior. Also, the term autism spectrum disorder had already been in common use.
Previously, DSM IV described autism as a group of disorders including autistic disorder, Rett, childhood dis-integrative disorder, Asperger’s and pervasive developmental disorder–else not stated. But there were several challenges to the diagnostic criteria in DSM-IV.
One challenge was that it worked well for school age children, but not for adults or toddlers. DSM III, which was in use in the 1980’s, restricted the definition of autism, hence giving a tolerable recurrence risk of 1 in 1000. Other information on this can be looked up elsewhere.
Over the last decade, there had been a seeming rise in autism cases which had led to research and incredible discoveries; even recently, there has been evidence to link autism with epilepsy. These chunks of evidence, reports and new facts keep showing up every minute and the perspective of the world on autism keeps evolving. These events have left many people hopeful that science might as well be on its way to finding a cure for autism.